Just A Shot Away (Soul January 15th 1972)

Joe Simon had the new #1 on the Cash Box R&B Top 60 (they seem to have dropped the “in R&B Locations” – I’ll miss it) of 50 years ago this week with “Drowning In the Sea of Love”. Just one place below Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” was his first R&B Top 3 placing & by no means his last. There was 5 years of all-round greatness & success to come, the Reverend Al will surely feature in my future selections, probably before this year is done. Not this time though, the last post was exclusively male so this week it’s only fair to balance it out.

ᓰᓰᑫᐧᓯᐢ on Twitter: "Never forget Merry Clayton. She took Gimme Shelter from  classic to timeless. https://t.co/OAwRxmCe4f" / Twitter

In late 1969 singer Merry Clayton took a midnight phone call from her friend, producer Jack Nitzsche, asking her to come down to Sunset Sound Studio to help out his old friends the Rolling Stones. Merry, four months pregnant, got out of bed & in just three takes added a ferocious, full-throated vocal, absolutely appropriate for the apocalyptic “Gimme Shelter”, an already substantial observation on end-of-the-decade tumult. Ms Clayton had been recording since her school days, first with Bobby Darin, as a Raelette & providing backing vocals on records you have heard. This new significant credit brought a solo contract with producer Lou Adler, the title track of her debut in 1970 being “Gimme Shelter”. No Jagger this time, just Merry

Merry Clayton – After All This Time / Steamroller (1970, Vinyl) - Discogs

Merry had provided backing vocals for Carole King’s record “Tapestry”, a major success, & the hottest songwriter around returned the favour by passing over three of her unrecorded songs for the “Merry Clayton” album. Of course the singer could still take it to church, it’s what she did, both Neil Young’s “Southern Man” & James Taylor’s “Steamroller” are tours of force. It’s King’s songs, “After All This Time” is #22 on this week’s chart, & a couple of well-chosen others that bring a pleasing restraint to the collection. So does a studio full of all-star Soul-Jazz players, Billy Preston, the eighth Beatle, was a friend from the Ray Charles days, Wilton Felder & Joe Semple off of the Crusaders, David T Walker, Motown’s guitar man on the West Coast & Merry’s husband Curtis Amy do great work on the Funky grooves. Over the years Merry worked with an impressive list of musicians yet remained 20 feet from stardom. In 2014 both her legs were amputated at the knee after a car accident but she could still sing. With a little help from her talented friends 2021’s Gospel record “Beautiful Scars” is a lovely thing. It’s not a comeback album, Merry Clayton has always been around.

Martha & The Vandellas 1967 Vancouver, B.C. Nightclub Concert | Lot #89805  | Heritage Auctions

“In & Out of My Life” is the highest new entry on the list at #48. There was a time when Martha & the Vandellas were the premier group on the Tamla Motown roster. In 1963 “Heat Wave” & “Quicksand” made the US Top 10, helping to establish the company as “The Sound of Young America”. The following year “Dancing in the Street”, monumental Motor City Soul, was kept from the #1 spot by Manfred Mann’s “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” while rising fast was “Baby Love”, the second of the Supremes’ phenomenal run of 5 successive chart toppers & it appeared that Motown’s star-making machinery would only support one superstar female trio. There were still some great 45s, “Jimmy Mack” is irresistible, “I’m Ready For Love”, a fine example of the strong, urgent Vandellas sound while the instant attraction I felt towards “Honey Chile”, the first credit to Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, is now permanent. The departures of first producer/writer Mickey Stevenson, co-writer of “Dancing…” with Marvin Gaye & Ivy Joe Hunter, then Holland-Dozier-Holland, providers of 8 of the 12 tracks on 1966’s “Greatest Hits”, along with Martha’s debilitating addiction to painkillers, were barriers to maintaining a high quality output.

76 Martha Reeves (The Vandellas Years) ideas | martha reeves, martha, motown

By 1972 Martha Reeves’ Vandellas were sister Lois & Sandra Tilley & there hadn’t been a Top 20 Pop or R&B it since 1967’s “Honey Chile”. “Black Magic”, the soon to be released album, credited six production teams for just 11 tracks, giving the impression that if there was a spare afternoon with a song that perhaps Diana Ross had passed on then Martha & the Vandellas were called in. “In & Out of My Life” is a fine track, as is “Bless You” & a couple of the others but covers of songs by the Beatles, Jackson 5 & Dionne Warwick not so much. Motown were moving their operation from Detroit to Los Angeles & the group did not go with them. “Black Magic” was to be the trio’s final record & Martha Reeves was a solo singer before the end of 1972. MCA spent a good deal of money on Martha but she was never matched with the same quality of material as that which made Gladys Knight such a star after she left the label at the same time. Still, Martha is loved for a decade of hits & whether she is performing or showing up on “Celebrity Master Chef” it’s always a pleasure.

Ronettes Newcastle UK Club A Go Go 33 X 23 Inches Aporox | Etsy

I’m sorry to interrupt our normal programming but tribute must be paid to Veronica “Ronnie” Spector who unfortunately died this week. In late 1963, when I was hoping that Santa would show up with a piece of kit that could play those highly desirable, intoxicating 7 inch vinyl discs (he really came through – a brand new Dansette), the UK Top 10 was packed with the Mersey Beat, two guitars, bass & drum, yeah, yeah, yeah. In the middle of this noise from North West England was something from the USA, two sisters, Veronica & Estelle, with their cousin Nedra, from Spanish Harlem who had moved to Los Angeles to make records with “The First Tycoon of Teen” Phil Spector. I knew very little about the Wall of Sound, of Spector’s alchemy in Gold Star Studios but “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes, with its boom-ba-boom-pah drum intro, orchestration & backing vocals a gathering storm under a siren’s call lead, strong, emotional, alluring, by Ronnie (“for every kiss you give me, I’ll give you three” – oh my!) was a perfect Pop song, more iconic with every homage, echo & attempt to emulate its precise excellence.

The Ronettes promo ad for Baby I Love You. January 1964 | The ronettes,  Wall of sound, 70s music

With “Be My Baby” & the following “Baby I Love You” the Ronettes toured the UK in 1964, topping a bill including the Rolling Stones. If you saw that tour then you are both lucky & old. When we did see photos & then moving pictures of the trio they proved to be sharp, stylish & flipping gorgeous. Their subsequent 45s were not as commercially successful, perhaps the Motown girl groups became the current sound. Spector’s productions, arranged by Jack Nitzsche who made that call to Merry Clayton, all featuring Ronnie’s distinctive, beguiling voice, endure as atmospheric “little symphonies for the kids”, often imitated, never equalled, undoubtedly the Ronettes.

Ronnie Spector

It took Ronnie some time to extricate herself from an abusive marriage to Spector & a new generation of music fans had heard little from her. Singles made with George Harrison & the E Street Band, a 1980 album with Genya Ravan were well received as were later records where she covered the likes of the Ramones & Johnny Thunders but these were too individual to revive any major success. Ronnie continued to tour, happy to perform her timeless hits to audiences who were happy to hear them. People I know who saw these shows tell me that it was a great night. Ronnie Spector made her mark, she was a legend & oh, did I mention she was flipping gorgeous.

1964, the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, an all star bill for the T.A.M.I. Show. The Ronettes have just performed a wonderful live “Be My Baby” & the girls go a little off-script for their take on the Isley Brothers’ “Shout”. It’s wild, it’s free, fun & as Mod as heck. It certainly didn’t need all those Go-Go dancers cluttering up the stage.

Almost But Not Quite There (January 8th 1972)

I do love a list & also have a liking for musical ephemera preserved on the Internet so when the all-encompassing treasure trove that is the archive.org website turned up a full set of Cash Box magazines, allowing my regular selections from the US R&B chart of 50 years ago to continue, my eye was caught by the listing for the LPs 101 – 150 for January 8 1972. It’s a varied collection of classic hit records, “Sticky Fingers”, “The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East” (“Eat A Peach” was due in February) slipping from higher positions, of “Best of” & “Greatest Hits”, including Iron Butterfly (really!) & B J Thomas who was on to “Volume Two”. There are outliers like the latest from Mantovani, a conductor of light orchestral music, & the soundtrack to the Disney film “Bedknobs & Broomsticks” then there are those records that didn’t quite sell enough to make the big Top 100. I know, I’m easily pleased but there’s some pretty good music to be found here.

Richie Havens on Opening Woodstock '69 - Rolling Stone

At 5 pm on the 15th of August 1969 the Woodstock Festival wasn’t ready to go. The stage hadn’t been finished & Sweetwater, the opening act, were caught in congestion of people & vehicles travelling to the site. Richie Havens, still waiting for his bass player, was asked to step in, closing an extended set with “Freedom”, an improvisation based on the spiritual “Motherless Child”. The song was included in the 1970 festival documentary, the fifth highest grossing film of the year, & a lot more people knew about Richie, already a successful artist, three albums in, than had previously been the case. That was a good thing for everyone, Richie’s deep smokey voice, his rhythmic strumming, open chord tuning, thumb hooked over the guitar fretboard & refreshing Soul-Folk interpretations of familiar songs gave him an individual place in music. “Alarm Clock” (1971), the first post-movie collection, released on his own Stormy Forest label, reached #29 & the lead track, the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun”, entered the Top 20, the biggest commercial successes of his career.

Fat Angel Magazine/Fanzine No 12 1973 Richie Havens Leo Kottke Jefferson  Airplane

“The Great Blind Degree”, down three slots to #105 this week, included a number of soft rock cover versions, songs by Graham Nash, Cat Stevens, James Taylor’s “Fire & Rain” that everybody was doing & Pete Townshend’s “Tommy” that no-one was, getting Havens-ised. The jewel of the record is “What About Me”, a powerful state of the nation song from when the nation was in an absolute state, written by Dino Valenti. Dino was an enigmatic wild one, making the Greenwich Village folk scene before moving to the West Coast & joining Quicksilver Messenger Service. In the mid-60s he sold the rights to “Get Together”, soon to be a Hippie anthem, for $100 to pay for the defence of a marijuana bust & for a while he held the copyright to “Hey Joe”, gifted to Dino, it is claimed, when an inmate at Folsom Prison. “What About Me” is a lyrical triumph & Richie Havens did it more than credit (see above). He may not have had the big hits but he was always welcome through a long career, constant in his support for ecological action, for civil rights & freedom. In 1982 Richie Havens was the closing act at the Glastonbury Festival, it was an occasion, a stunning, inimitable performance.

Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels – Breakout…!!! (1966, Vinyl) - Discogs

Mitch Ryder (born William Levise) was singing in Detroit clubs as Billy Lee & the Rivieras when the group was signed by Bob Crewe, the writer-producer behind the Four Seasons whose successful run of hits had continued in the face of 1964’s British Invasion. Together Crewe & the re-named Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels recorded three LPs & five Top 30 singles, exciting, precipitous rushes of Garage Soul, an influence on young Bruce Springsteen & many others who wanted to make music that got people out of their seats. The band worked hard, Crewe re-packaged the hits three times in two years & only he got paid. The producer’s idea of solo Mitch as a singer of standards for “What Now My Love” (1967) was a bad one, “The Detroit-Memphis Experiment” (1969), a record with Booker T & the M.G.s, produced by Steve Cropper, is much more interesting but failed to attract attention. The times they were a-changing & Mitch Ryder was a golden oldie, all the way back from two years ago!

Mitch Ryder

“Detroit”, #137 from 142 this week, is the eponymous debut by Mitch’s new combo, only drummer John Badenjek was a former Detroit Wheel. It’s a straight ahead Rock & Blues record, as resolute as the hard-working city that gave the group its name &, after closer listening this week, Mitch is in great form & the best tracks hit the spot. These are when guitarist Steve Hunter, recommended by bass player John Sauter, is let loose. The record is produced by Bob Ezrin, just 21 years old,& when Alice Cooper was no longer a group he brought Steve along to help Alice the solo singer out. When Ezrin worked with Lou Reed he played him Detroit’s version of Lou’s “Rock & Roll”, a minor hit (see above) & Steve was hired to make some noise on the Rock & Roll Animal tour. A hard living lifestyle took its toll on Mitch’s voice & on a couple of band members. Detroit made just the one record, Mitch took a job in a warehouse before returning to make some fine, fine music with the help of friends who were fans. Mitch Ryder & the D.W.s may be less rated than some 1960s acts but if you are having a party then their “Breakout” album will bring a smile to faces & a tap to toes.

Emitt Rhodes Photos (5 of 18) | Last.fm

When Emitt Rhodes’ teenage band, the Merry-Go-Round disbanded in 1969 after just the one LP of Pop with a light psychedelic seasoning his own recordings were rejected by the label. Undeterred his parents’ garage became a studio & the subsequent tracks, all written, sung & played by him, gained him a contract. “Emitt Rhodes” (1970) attracted much critical acclaim & dedication from fans reaching the Top 30 of the US charts. Here in the UK his name would be checked in plenty of journals but there was little radio support & that’s how we heard new music back then. Perhaps, due to Emitt’s obvious influences, the “one-man Beatles” tag didn’t help, our own Fab Four may have called it a day but their first solo records were selling by the lorry load. Similarly Mirror” (1971) didn’t include a hit single that would have raised interest. It stayed at #131 this week 50 years ago & would not get much higher.

Emitt Rhodes’ music is undoubtedly McCartneyesque, it is still now as fresh as a daisy, imaginatively arranged, natural, melodic, perfect crafted three minute Pop songs. Many artists have had similar aspirations & succeeded, few have shown the facility & talent of Emitt Rhodes. It was obvious that the two albums a year deal he had signed was to prove too heavy a load for a one-man operation & there would be just one more release before his royalties were withheld & he was sued for $250,000. “Farewell To Paradise” (his third record) indeed. Emitt continued to write, still thwarted by the business of music, releases were sporadic. It would be 2016, 43 years later, before another Emitt Rhodes record, interest in his work has always endured, fans remain devoted but isn’t it a pity.

Keep On (Soul January 1st 1972)

OK, it’s been a month since my last selections from the Cash Box Top 60 in R&B Locations of 50 years ago because y’know, Life. Right so, a New Year, new energy & a whole bunch of new entries on the chart. Let me at them & for sure it’s going to be another year of nothing but the real thing & there ain’t nothing like that.

There’s a brand new Top 3 for 1972 & the #1 on the R&B list is also at the top of the Pop chart. The Jackson 5 were the teen sensation of the day & “Got To Be There” was the debut solo 45 by 13 year old Michael. A more serious song, the boy with the prodigious voice & moves was growing up, a nailed on international hit while the family band were rising to #9 with “Sugar Daddy”, a more typical Pop-Soul confection. At #2 19 year old Betty Wright’s “Clean Up Woman” didn’t crossover to become a Pop hit but its fresh Miami sound, that guitar riff by Little Beaver, makes it still recognisable 50 years later. Joe Simon had moved from Nashville to Philly, getting an update to his sound from producers Gamble & Huff, still making the Top 3 with “Drowning In the Sea of Love”. That’s a pretty good selection right there

Bobby Womack: The Greatest Soulman – Echoes Magazine

In 1965 Bobby Womack’s marriage to Sam Cooke’s widow just 77 days after the star’s death brought criticism from family, fans & the music business. Leaving his own family group, the Valentinos, his first solo efforts were badly received. Bobby found a place in Memphis as a session guitarist at American Sound Studio where his songwriting talent provided hits for Wilson Pickett & led to a new recording contract. After a couple of albums he was picked up by United Artists, a bigger label, moved to Los Angeles where he became Sly Stone’s drug buddy & contributed to “There’s A Riot Goin’ On”. Staying in L.A. to record his third solo record, with better promotion & a growing reputation, it was time for Bobby Womack to break on through.

Bobby Womack: Communication 8 Track Tape Cartridge for Sale

“Communication” matches spare, modern Funk to Bobby’s Old Soul voice & it’s the three of his own songs that are, in my opinion, the highlights of the collection. “That’s the Way I Feel About Cha”, #12 this week, up from 16, is a sweet Soul-Blues with his brothers on backing vocals & the Muscle Shoals band. The title track & “If You Don’t Want My Love) Give It Back” cut it too. Bobby always had a taste for a monologue & a trademark spoken intro & I have always found them engaging, it’s the easy listening covers, present on all his early records, that I find to be less successful. This time around it’s James Taylor’s “Fire & Rain” & Ray Stevens’ “Everything Is Beautiful”. No matter, Bobby Womack was building an impressive catalogue & there was an upcoming LP, “Understanding” in May 1972 that really is a classic Soul album.

A poster for the 'Soul To Soul' Independence day concert held in... News  Photo - Getty Images

It was out on the youth club dancefloor, dancing awkwardly with the girls (well, near the girls) to the exciting Atlantic singles recorded by Wilson Pickett in 1965-66, a list that starts with “In the Midnight Hour” & ends with “Mustang Sally”, that made this too young to be a Mod a Soul Boy. The Wicked Pickett was my gateway to Southern Soul, to Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, that Stax sound with a little more grit than those Motown sensations that were calling out around the world. I’ll admit that after voting for Wilson as the World’s Top Vocalist in the NME’s end of year poll 12 months later my choice was Otis but Pickett’s gruff & ready soul-shouting & shrieks were a Soul wonder & the hits kept on coming & he was such an international star that in 1971 when Soul went to Africa it was his name at the top of a star-studded bill. “15 continuous hours” of music in Black Star Square, Accra, Ghana, you know it, by the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park. Well maybe not but my workmate Manny does & it was a very big deal when Soul Brother #2 (after James) performed in his home city. The light in his eyes was brighter when he told me his stories about that day over a decade later.

Soul Serenade: Wilson Pickett, “Ninety-Nine And A Half (Won't Do)” – Popdose

In 1969 the wicked one recorded a coruscating cover of the Fabs’ “Hey Jude”, sparks flying between Wilson & that new guitar-slinger, young Duane Allman, the Muscle Shoals band giving it loads. The 45’s success led to other covers from the Pop/Rock catalogue & this week 50 years ago, up a healthy 10 spots to #22 was “Fire and Water” written by Andy Fraser & Paul Rogers, half of the band Free, the young ones of the British Blues boom. Free were a tight unit with a great live show & a growing reputation when a track from “Fire & Water”, their third album, the anthemic Rock classic “All Right Now”, made the Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic. The songwriters, Fraser, a melodic bassist, & Rogers, a forceful vocalist & frontman, were up to the job of reinforcing this success but the unreliability & increasing heroin dependency of ace guitarist Paul Kossoff destabilised a great band that coulda been a contender. Wilson Pickett did a great job on “Fire & Water”, an imaginative choice, looking fly on “Soul Train” in his silver lame suit. He perhaps missed a trick by not picking up on “The Stealer”, another fine Blues-Soul song from Free.

Nolan Porter | Discography | Discogs

It”s a last chance to include this great tune in my selections as this week “Keep On Keeping On” by Nolan Porter had slipped from #36 to #54. Nolan’s first LP, “No Apologies” (1970) had been recorded in Hollywood with Little Feat, the band adding an attractive rockier edge to the singer’s soulful interpretations of songs by Van Morrison, Don Covay, Randy Newman & others. Released on producer Gabriel Mekler’s small label Lizard the record received little promotion & failed to gain attention. When a new recording, a reggae version of “Groovin’ Out On Life”, a song by the great Bobby Charles, was a small R&B hit it was under the name Frederick II so did little to raise Nolan’s profile. An eponymous second album included remixes from the debut along with four new tracks though, as can seen from the label above, “Keep On Keeping On” is by N.F. Porter. So few recordings so many names for Nolan Porter.

Stone Foundation mini UK/Spain tour with Nolan Porter | Stone Foundation  Blog

Both this 45 & the following “If I Could Only Be Sure” featured distinctive, almost eerie, lead playing by Johnnie “Guitar” Watson, different enough to attract attention from the Northern Soul scene in the UK. The quality of these records & that there would be no more releases by Nolan until 1980 added to their reputation. The riff for “Keep On…” being incorporated into Joy Division’s “Interzone”, Paul Weller covering “If I Could Only…”. A new generation of British Soul fans knew about Nolan Porter & he received a great welcome from fans & musicians when he visited. Unfortunately Nolan died last February, just two albums, less than 20 tracks. It really won’t take long to check him out & it will be worth it. More than anything, at the beginning of another uncertain year, we have to “Keep On Keeping On”. HNY.

Play It Tough All The Way (Ray Illingworth)

On another day of capitulation in Australia by the 11 best cricketers in England the memories evoked by the death this week of Ray Illingworth, a true great, are particularly poignant. Illy’s captaincy of England for 31 international test matches between 1969 & 1973 included two series victories over Australia, a fiercely competitive, sometimes antagonistic rivalry for The Ashes, a title conferred after an Australian win in England in 1882. Other cricketing nations have progressed & excelled but, since the first meeting in 1877, this match-up has remained a measure of both nations standing in the sport. Ray Illingworth’s shrewd tactical ability, his knowledge of the game & his determination to win meant that his contribution to the success of the national side was as significant as any other post-war captain.

Before the football season became a ubiquitous year-long obsession cricket was our Summer sport. On the back field where the children of our neighbourhood congregated, (between the flats & the allotments, remember that?) after the F.A. Cup final in May the jumpers for goalposts were replaced by an odd jumble of ill-matched equipment, stumps, if we had them, an approximate 22 yards apart for our impromptu but still serious games. A bat & a ball were the minimum requirement but we somehow begged, stole or borrowed an impressive amount of gear. I was kindly gifted a set of full-sized stumps, in demand even when I was otherwise engaged (measles, bath night, stuff like that) & while the wicket keeper’s gloves were bagged by the big boys, wearing a single, frayed, leg pad, adequate protection against a tennis ball, gave your innings, however brief, greater authenticity.

The top two tiers of the sport consisted of teams representing the counties of England (OK, there was one from Wales). Our local side played in the rather condescendingly named lower section, the Minor Counties. Lincolnshire came to town once a year to play a two day game, amateurs joined in 1968 by the legendary spin bowler Sonny Ramadhin who, along with his partner Alf Valentine, had, in 1950, bamboozled the English batsmen, leading the West Indies to a first famous victory (of many) & immortalised in the cricket calypso above. We could eat all the picnic goodies packed by our mothers knowing that my grandma lived just a two minute cycle ride from the ground & that she would see us right when tea-time came around.

The top 17 counties competed for the Championship & the nearest one to my home, just 10 miles to the West, was Yorkshire. This proximity along with a growing awareness of which side of the country’s North-South divide I was on (the North) led to the adoption of them as “my” team which was a stroke of luck as Yorkshire displaced the Surrey southerners as the dominant cricket force & were champions six times in the 1960s. At that time to play for Yorkshire you had to have been born in the county. A friends mother was sent North from Bedford for his arrival – just in case! We never saw these county sides play, only the Test matches were televised, we were reliant on the daily newspaper reports & scorecards, close study & imagination enhancing the great feats of batting & bowling that contributed to the team’s continued success. I may not always be able to recall quite why I have come into the kitchen but the household (well, our house anyway) names of Tottenham Hotspur’s 1960-61 Double-winning team, of England’s 1966 World Cup winners & of that Yorkshire cricket team – go on, ask me!

 

Ray Illingworth dead aged 89: Former England cricket captain and Yorkshire  legend passes away
Ray

Ray Illingworth, an off-spinner (I’m not about to go into the intricacies of spin bowling) & a more than reliable batsman “played cricket as he was brought up to play it, hard and seriously – giving nowt and expecting nowt in return – which is the best way to achieve results”. He first achieved the “double” of 1000 runs & 100 wickets in a season in 1957 & was to repeat this five times in the next seven years. As the senior lieutenant of captain Brian Close, similarly schooled in the uncompromising local leagues, Illy showed young hopefuls what was expected of a Yorkshire cricket professional. Close, a man so pragmatic that his answer to an intimidating West Indian pace attack was to defend against their 100 mph bouncers, no helmet, with his chest (& these guys were not using tennis balls), could rely on Ray’s assistance to solve the equation of changing conditions (English weather y’know), available time & the talent at his disposal to extract maximum points from any game.

ICC on Twitter: "The greatest fast bowler ever? #OnThisDay in 1931, Fred  Trueman, the first bowler to 300 Test wickets, was born  https://t.co/ZccHWJfwjq" / Twitter
Fred

Yorkshire’s batting strength, founded on seasoned internationals Phil Sharpe & John Hampshire was reinforced by the development of Geoffrey Boycott into a single-minded, prodigious collector of runs. The elegant Don Wilson gave Ray a partner effective on any wicket receptive to spin bowling. The new ball, the preserve of the fast bowlers was taken by the productive & reliable Tony Nicholson & Fred Trueman, “built for the job of a fast ‘un, and with the spirit too”, the best paceman in England, possibly the world & a national treasure. Fred’s youthful gaucheness often brought disapproval from the staid M.C.C., arbiters of the game & he was often overlooked for national team selection until he proved to be just too damn good. On the 15th of August 1964 “Fiery” Fred became the first bowler to capture 300 wickets in Test cricket. I was on summer holiday, an 11 year old with the family transistor radio cupped to his ear, listening to the game taking place 140 miles away. Before I could pass the news to my Dad the whole promenade of the East Coast seaside resort began to applaud, a spontaneous & respectful tribute to a sportsman that I have never seen repeated. A working-class childhood hero is something to be!

Raymond Illingworth obituary | Cricket | The Guardian

Ray left Yorkshire in 1968 after a contract dispute & joined Leicestershire as their captain, being appointed to that position with England just a month later, a stop-gap arrangement that continued until 1973! His shrewd leadership of a team of world class talents, Boycott, the run accumulator, Snow, the intimidating fast bowler (“Geoff & John” of Roy Harper’s wonderfully evocative song), wicket keeper-batsman Knott, augmented by players toughened on the county circuit achieved results which made his position unassailable against opponents on the field & administrators off. Mention must be made here of the mercurial Basil D’Oliveira, exiled from his South Africa birthplace, his all-round skills appreciated by the England cricket team & the many fans of the sport. Leicestershire won their first trophy in 1972, there were to be four more including the Championship before he returned to Yorkshire as manager then captain, at 50 years old, in a spell he recorded in his book “The Tempestuous Years”.

Golden Years of Yorkshire Cricket - remembering 1959-1969

While at Leicester David Gower, a precocious batsman, benefitted greatly from Ray’s experience & knowledge. Similarly at Somerset Brian Close mentored young Ian Botham. Two future captains, dominant personalities in 1980s England cricket schooled in the ways of winning the Yorkshire way. Such was Illy’s stature in the game that involvement with England as chairman of selectors then manager was inevitable as perhaps were differences of opinion with a new generation of players. Maybe I’ve become “that old guy” now too, preferring waking up in a warm bed on a cold winter morning, reaching for the radio to discover the fortune of England’s cricketers under a scorching Australian sun to staying up in the early hours watching the feeble resistance of today’s finest. Ian Chappell, Australian captain, an uncompromising man himself, said of Ray Illingworth that he played to win from the first ball. The current England captain, a Yorkshireman, could maybe try that out.

Soul And Inspiration (Johnny Pate)

The 98th birthday of anyone, or indeed anything, is worthy of celebration & remembrance & today, December the 5th 2021, that milestone is reached by the arranger/conductor/producer Johnny Pate. Johnny was a key member of a talented group that came together in Chicago in the 1960s & whose work ensured that the Windy City made a significant contribution to the blend of Rock & Roll, Gospel & Rhythm & Blues that became known as Soul music. He was a man who stayed busy, his name can be found on the labels of many records, here are just some of them.

Johnnie Pate - At The Blue Note - Blue Sounds

Johnny Pate was a Jazz man, a bass player who had recorded with big bands & his own trio, piano, bass, drums & straight from the fridge daddio. In 1962 Carl Davis who had produced “Duke of Earl”, a major hit for Gene Chandler, was appointed Artists & Repertoire director, responsible for the recruitment of talent to revive the Okeh label. Davis invited Pate to join him as an arranger & one of his first assignments, “The Monkey Time” for Major Lance, was a US Top 10 hit. This was followed by three more national hits for Major, all with a Latin shuffle beat, zingy brass & ear-catching, floor-filling tunes, all produced by Davis, arranged by Pate & written by Curtis Mayfield, a young man with ambitions for his own group. “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um” did make the lower reaches of the UK chart at a time when my interest didn’t extend below the current Top 10.

One of the tricks used by British Beat was to cover current US R&B hits & “Um x 6” was a UK Top 5 hit for Manchester’s Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders. Cilla Black found a #1 hit with Dionne Warwick’s “Anyone Who Had A Heart” while Manfred Mann were toppermost of the poppermost on both sides of the Atlantic with “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”. A curious boy with an inquisitive mind (that would be me) was soon able to discover that I preferred those original records by Major Lance, Dionne & the Exciters respectively, that there were other songs from the Okeh label, from Burt Bacharach & Bert Berns worthy of consideration. I always loved “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um”, even more so because it was a gateway to a fulfilling lifetime of looking a little further than the chart listings for my musical entertainment.

The Train Keeps Rolling, 50 Years On - WSJ

Johnny Pate, who had served his time during World War 2 with the 218th AGF Army Band, will admit that he initially felt these new R&B circles were not as musically challenging as the Cool Jazz to which he was accustomed. It was the talent & potential of Curtis Mayfield, 20 years his junior & self-taught, along with their commercial success, that spurred Pate to heights of creativity. Curtis’ early work with his group the Impressions, “It’s Alright”, “People Get Ready & others had a Gospel purity with immaculate harmonies which Pate augmented with sweetness & danceability that never overshadowed this authenticity. One of the most popular vocal groups in the US developed a greater social awareness & sophistication with hits like “Keep On Pushing” &, from the album “The Young Mods’ Forgotten Story” (1969), “Choice of Colors”. As Curtis’ mentor Johnny Pate, while also developing the arranging talent of Donnie Hathaway, deftly framed these significant songs with the substance they merited.

By the end of a momentous decade people were moving on to move on up. Carl Davis had begun his own Dakar label, Curtis left the Impressions, releasing his solo work on his own Curtom imprint. Johnny Pate signed a contract with MGM-Verve which enabled him to make his own record. “Outrageous” (1970) has his name on the cover, is conducted, arranged & written by him. The funky title track displays the talents of the all-star 13 piece big band Johnny assembled for the sessions, King Curtis’s band, the Kingpins, legends all, are joined by the fuzz guitar of Joe Beck, Jerome Richardson’s flute & a five man brass section. The whole of the orchestral suite is not as uptempo as this track but it grooves, is very accomplished & sometimes surprises. “Outrageous” is a very cool record.

Johnnie Pate Albums: songs, discography, biography, and listening guide -  Rate Your Music

Now freelance, Johnny’s brand of Soul Jazz was in demand for the soundtracks of the Blaxploitation films that were a big thing in the early 1970s. He worked on “Shaft In Africa” (with this great wah-wah laden theme tune), Brother on the Run”, “Bucktown”, “Bustin’ Loose” & others, sometimes the music was better than the movies. Pate worked as a producer for vocalists Peabo Bryson & Natalie Cole & as an orchestral arranger on “Life in a Tin Can” (1973) a pre-Saturday Night Live album by the Bee Gees. My final selection is on from my own collection. In 1980 Johnny co-produced “Life Lives Forever”, a posthumous record by the peerless Chicago singer Minnie Riperton who had succumbed to cancer in the previous year aged just 31. In what must have been a bittersweet process Pate & Minnie’s husband, Richard Rudolph enhanced vocals she had recorded with contributions from musicians who respected & loved her. “Give Me Time” features the unmistakeable harmonica of Stevie Wonder. It is not the best of Minnie’s six solo albums but it is a last chance to hear a beautiful singer with a unique range & that’s enough.

JOHNNY PATE discography (top albums) and reviews

In 1983 Johnny settled his family in Las Vegas & entered a semi-retirement. In later media appearances he seems a quiet, well-spoken, dignified man. He spent most of his career in the background, creating music for others to perform, making a great & memorable contribution to the development of Chicago Soul. Let’s hope that I can feature more of that music in a couple of years when Johnny Pate reaches his centenary.

All Things Considered I’d Rather Be In Philadelphia (Soul November 6th 1971)

So this week my link to the Cash Box Top 60 in R&B Locations of 50 years ago just disappeared. The venerable American music magazine now wants some of my hard-earned to access not only crummy content in which I have little interest but also their chart archive which I find so fascinating & inspiring. Ah well, at first it seemed that my game was up but these are they Interwebs, it’s all there if you know where to look or you get lucky. I have found this week’s listing, can’t tell you where in case the Cashbox folk are around & they send their heavies around to hold me upside down out of the window to get me to reveal my source. It’s OK, I live on the ground floor & anyway I’ll never squeal. Right, in a week that saw the “Theme From Shaft” leap a rather impressive 35 places into the Top 3, my selections are all from Philadelphia. The City of Sisterly Love, home of the Philly cheesesteak & the Hoagie (whatever they are), had been making significant musical ripples for some time. By November 1971 these new young guns were hitting their stride.

Much of the impetus for the greater interest in the sounds of Philadelphia came from the talent, ambition & success of songwriter-producer team Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff & the Intruders were a big part of the pair’s first steps to establish themselves. In 1966 they started their own Gamble label & four of the first five releases were by the local four-piece vocal group. It was all there on the Intruders’ breakout hit “Cowboys To Girls” (1968). Sam “Little Sonny Brown’s strong lead vocal, complimented by sweet harmonies, lush strings & punchy brass was a template for the future Sound of Philadelphia.

45cat - The Intruders - (Love Is Like A) Baseball Game / Friends No More -  Gamble - USA - G-217

In 1971, with hits by the Intruders, Jerry Butler, Dusty Springfield & others on their palmares, Gamble & Huff, with the backing of Columbia, started Philadelphia International. With new financial & artistic clout they were able to assemble a roster of artists & background staff with the ability to finesse a Soul strand to rival Detroit & Memphis. Through all this change the pair stuck by the Intruders & “I Bet He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You)” up just one place to #30 became the group’s ninth R& Top 20 hit, all Gamble & Huff compositions. By this time Bobby Starr had replaced Little Sonny on lead, joining Eugene “Bird” Daughtry, Phil Terry & Robert “Big Sonny” Edwards. The Intruders already had their name on the roll of important Philadelphia artists & there was still more to come from them

Getting Down To It (Soul October 17th 1970) | loosehandlebars

Thom Bell, Jamaican born, raised in Philadelphia, was an early recruit to the new record label. His talent as an arranger was already proven & when Gamble & Huff formed a publishing company Bell was the third of Mighty Three Music. In 1967 he was introduced to the Delfonics, the Hart brothers, William & Wilbert, & Randy Cain. William’s love songs, sung in his sweetest falsetto, were matched to supertight harmonies & symphonic, atmospheric orchestration. The first two 45s were not hits, hearing them now they sound pretty fine, instantly recognisable as Delfonics’ music. With their label Cameo-Parkway, a fixture in the city for the previous 10 years, about to fold they recorded “La La (Means I Love You)” & released it locally but you know it, Ms Jackie Brown knows it, we all do. It was just too good a record, a true individual classic, to not leave a major impression on the chart & in our musical memories.

“Walk Right Up To the Sun”, rising a sprightly 10 places to #37, followed more Bell-produced hits including “Ready Or Not Here I come” & “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)”. It’s another smooth, airy piece which sits well on any of the group’s “Best Of” collections only this time, as on the rest of the forthcoming album “Tell Me This Is A Dream”, Thom Bell’s name is absent from the credits. He had work to do on new projects based at the Sigma Sound Studios. William Bell continued to write, Randy was replaced by Major Harris whose cousin Norman took a prominent role (he co-wrote “Walk Right Up…”), playing arranging & assisting group manager Stan Watson on production. The hits were never as big again but hey, it’s the Delfonics, you hear them you know them.

THOM BELL AND LINDA CREED: LOVE IS THE MESSAGE

Linda Creed, raised in a suburb of Philadelphia, passed on college to pursue a musical career. She found her talent was as a lyricist & she was only 21 when Dusty Springfield recorded a song she had written with the aforementioned Mighty Three. Paired with Thom Bell the new partners worked on songs for the debut album by the Stylistics, a group referred to them by the Avco label. Eight of the nine songs on “The Stylistics” (1971) were Creed-Bell compositions &, given full creative control, Bell marshalled MFSB, the ready for prime time studio band, & a shimmering string section to frame the strong, sweet tenor to falsetto voice of Russell Thompkins Jr. I could name the other four Stylistics though they made no contribution to a record that produced five Top 10 R&B hits & was truly a landmark of the greater sophistication of Soul music.

It was such a landmark that when Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye were matched by Motown for an album of duets two of the Bell-Creed songs, “You Are Everything” (a new entry at #44 this week for the Stylistics) & “Stop Look Listen (To Your Heart)”, were included. Things were tense between the label’s biggest solo stars during the recording of “Diana & Marvin” (1973), she objected to his dope smoking, he wanted to know why her name came first. “You Are Everything” is the opening track, Diana takes the first verse before Marvin, showing he is not to be messed with, sits up & delivers the greatest 30 seconds of male vocal I have ever heard. Controversial? Not in the slightest -check it out.

Stax Of Wax, A Memphis Soul Stew (Soul October 16th 1971)

Stax Record Label Logo Vector (.CDR) Free Download

The highest new entry on the Cash Box Top 60 in R&B Locations for this week 50 years ago was “You Think You’re Hot Stuff”, Jean Knight’s follow up to her #1 smash “Mr Big Stuff”, the second chart topper of 1971, after “(Do The) Push & Pull (Part 1)” by Rufus Thomas for the Memphis based label Stax. Held in the same regard as Tamla Motown as a key player in the progression & popularity of Soul music Stax had faced tribulation after its breakthrough in the mid-1960s. The tragic, premature death in 1967 of the label’s biggest star, Otis Redding, was followed by the discovery that a fracture in their relationship with distributors Atlantic meant that Stax held no rights to any recordings made from 1960 to 1967. A new catalogue was created with the release of 27 albums & 30 singles in mid-1969. There were some changes, Booker T Jones & Steve Cropper, pivotal as hit-making writers-producers-musicians, both left the company. The studio on East McLemore Avenue was no longer the organisation’s creative hub. There was still talent enough to realise the label’s ambition to diversify & expand. There were still plenty of discs on the R&B chart that featured the finger-snapping logo.

Johnnie Taylor was right there to help Stax along when, in 1969, his “Who’s Making Love” sold a million. Johnnie had replaced

JOHNNIE TAYLOR 1969 vintage POSTER ADVERT I COULD NEVER BE PRESIDENT Stax |  eBay

Sam Cooke in the Soul Stirrers, signed for Stax in 1966 &”Who’s…” was a breakthrough for “The Philosopher of Soul”, initiating a run of Top 10 R&B hits. Johnnie was equally comfortable with urgent, fast-paced songs like that hit & the great “I Could Never Be President” or bluesy ballads such as “Jody’s Got Your Girl & Gone” & his current hit “Hijackin’ Love”, #14 this week after a couple of weeks on the Top 10. All of them had the solid groove & punchy horns of classic Memphis Soul. Producer Don Davis, a former session musician at Motown had found a place at Stax &, sensing more scope & opportunity there, encouraged some of his fellow Detroiters to follow him south. “Hijackin’ Love” was co-written by Tony Hester, who had provided all the songs for the Dramatics’ successful album “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get” & by Richard “Popcorn” Wylie”, a recording artist in his own right who played piano on early Motown hits & had a hand in Jamo Thomas’ fantastic “I Spy (For The FBI)”. Johnnie Taylor stuck with Stax until the end in 1975 & Don Davis stuck with Johnnie. In 1976 they found themselves at #1 on the US Pop chart with “Disco Lady”.

Be Altitude: Respect Yourself: How The Staple Singers Took Us Higher

For over a decade the Staple Singers enjoyed a thoroughly distinguished career as a leading Gospel-Folk group. A move towards recording more contemporary secular songs was sealed when the Chicago-based family group signed with Stax in 1968. For their first two records brother Pervis rejoined patriarch Pops & his three sisters Cleotha, Yvonne & Mavis. These albums were concurrent with the first solo collections by Mavis, two fine records featuring a strong, intimate voice which failed to set her apart in a crowded field of female vocalists. Perhaps it was realised that the right context for Mavis’ outstanding talent was with her father & her sisters. The production seat vacated by the departed Steve Cropper was filled by Al Bell, now co-owner of Stax, the prime mover behind the revival & expansion of the label. A more thoughtful curation of songs that suited the positive, conscious reinforcement that had always been a hallmark of the group was taken to 3614 Jackson Highway in Alabama where the famed Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section had set up after leaving the FAME studio. Now the Staple Singers zinged & grooved like no-one else.

Staple Singers Cleotha Staples R.I.P.

“If you don’t respect yourself ain’t nobody gonna give a good cahoot”. “Respect Yourself”, the lead 45 from an upcoming album, rose a healthy 15 places to #33 this week. It was co-written by Mack Rice whose “Mustang Sally” (you know it) had been successful for himself & for Wilson Pickett & by Luther Ingram, another recording artist whose discs on the Koko label were distributed by Stax. It’s an example of the label’s encouragement for the talent to be found around Memphis but I’m sure that they could not have expected such an enduring anthem of affirmation, capturing the confidence & hope of the civil rights movement. The growing popularity of the Staple Singers led to higher visibility & what was not to like about the group. 56 year old Roebuck “Pops” Staples had learned guitar from Country Blues greats in Mississippi. His restrained, insistent rhythm & his lead runs were an individual, irresistible, influential kind of Funk. The sisters had a calm, consanguine, natural grace & beauty & they had Mavis, a new Soul star. The achievements of the Staples Singers are a list, a long one & unfinished as Mavis continues to shine. “If you’re walking round think’n that the world owes you something ’cause you’re here. You goin’ out the world backwards like you did when you first come here” – that’s enough.

Albert King - Mississippi Blues Guitar Pioneer | uDiscover Music

Albert King had been playing the Blues around Arkansas, Illinois & finally St Louis since the 1940s. His adopted surname encouraged a connection with the more famous B.B. King (no, they weren’t brothers). Albert was left-handed & chose not to re-string his right-handed Gibson Flying V developing a string-bending strength giving him a distinctive, searing, muscular sound. In 1966, after little recording success in the previous five years, he signed to Stax records & handed to the care of drummer Al Jackson Jr who brought along the other members of his impeccable group Booker T & the M.G.s. Singles like “Crosscut Saw” & “Born Under A Bad Sign” may not have set the charts alight but they set a new standard in modern Blues & a collection of his Stax sessions released in 1967 proved to be very influential among young, mainly white, Rock guitarists. In 1968 he was invited to join a bill at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco with Jimi Hendrix & Janis Joplin. Albert had found a new, younger audience & was making more money than he had thought possible after years of small club gigs.

Lovejoy - Rolling Stone

For his 1971 album “Lovejoy” was produced by Don Nix, a saxophonist in his high school band the Mar-keys who scored big with “Last Night” when Stax was still called Satellite then became the house band for the label. Don was having a busy 1971, releasing two solo records of fine Southern Rock, organising the choir for George Harrison’s Concert For Bangla Desh & producing the classic “Goin’ Down” for another of the three Kings of the Blues Freddie. Working with Albert Don provided most of the songs & assembled two fine units for sessions in Los Angeles (Jesse Ed Davis, Wayne Perkins, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Jim Keltner) & the Muscle Shoals boys in Alabama. It takes a sensitive ear to distinguish what was recorded where (Jessie Ed’s guitar in LA, Barry Beckett’s keys in MS). It’s a full Blues-Rock sound played with obvious enjoyment by everyone involved as they frame Albert’s baritone & stinging guitar leads. “Everybody Wants To Get To Heaven” is at #50 on this week’s chart, the slower, soulful Nix-Dan Penn song “Like A Road Leading Home” sure sounds good to me & the whole album should do to fans of the Blues & Southern Rock.

As well as these three selections & Jean Knight Stax had other records by Rufus Thomas, the Newcomers & Little Milton on this week’s chart from 50 years ago. The following listing, for October 23 1971, the highest new entry was by the label’s biggest star after the upheavals of a few years previously. “Theme From Shaft” by Isaac Hayes was a whole other stack of success, “Can you dig it?”.

Sunshine, Szabo & Joe Tex (Soul September 25th 1971)

“Stick-Up” by Honey Cone had been on the Cash Box Top 60 in R&B Locations for 10 weeks before reaching the top spot. Longevity, a slow & steady rise, was more of a thing 50 years ago & three of the Top 10 had entered the chart over three months ago. I am now, of course, like everyone else in the 21st century, only attracted the shiny, new things & much of the current Top 10 has been featured in previous posts. There is one record, at #4 on September 25th 1971 after one week at #1, that has not been included so let’s start with one we all know, a classic hit, before excavating the listing’s lower reaches for some less well-known good stuff.

Ain't No Sunshine' 9 Memorable Covers

In 1971 things were all new for Bill Withers & he was new to record buyers. The cover of his debut album showed him, lunchbox in hand, at his job as an assembler at Weber Aircraft in Burbank, California. Bill was 32 years old, reluctant to quit in case this music thing didn’t work out. “Just As I Am” was produced by Booker T Jones who called in his fellow M.G.s Donald “Duck” Dunn on bass & drummer Al Jackson Jr. Steve Cropper was unavailable so Stephen Stills brought his guitar along. Heavy friends for a freshman recording artist. Judicious, expert use of strings added a sheen tosongs such as “Harlem”, Grandma’s Hands”, “Hope She’ll Be Happier” & the breakthrough “Ain’t No Sunshine” (I know, I know, I know that you know that one) that showed Bill Withers to be a songwriter with the ability to capture emotion with a dextrous lucidity. The overall impression was one of likeability & sincerity. It was no surprise that this was just how Bill was.

Bill Withers, Singer-Songwriter Of 'Ain't No Sunshine,' Has Died At Age 81  | KUAR

While he was trying to obtain a contract Bill made demo tapes using local Los Angeles musicians from Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. When the time came to take his show on the road they joined him &, as displayed on TV appearances & the 1973 “Live At The Carnegie Hall” album, their sympathetic, insouciant groove turned the Soul-Folk into an effortless Funk. In 1972 “Ain’t No Sunshine” was deservedly awarded the Grammy for Best R&B Song. It was followed by “Still Bill”, a very successful record produced by Bill & his band which not only included “Lean On Me” (US Pop #1) & “Use Me” (Pop #2) but also enough songs to make a damn fine list. After a move to a bigger label in 1975 he became increasingly dissatisfied with the insensitivity of the star making machinery & its effect on his creativity. “Menagerie” (1978) featured “Lovely Day” another song we all know, there was a hit collaboration with Grover Washington Jr, an album in 1985 & that was it. I hope that Bill Withers was fairly remunerated for those much-loved, much-covered songs he wrote. I do know from interview & documentary evidence that he was a content & admirable man who liked to live his life on his own terms.

This is a Gibson guitar print ad featuring Gabor Szabo.

Gabor Szabo, just like my Uncle Erno, was a young man when they both escaped a Red Army invasion of Hungary in 1956. Erno found his way to the UK where he absolutely lucked out by marrying Ruth, my favourite Auntie while Gabor arrived in California via Austria , a guitarist already Jazz-influenced by exposure to the Voice of America radio station in Budapest. After a couple of years studying in Boston he returned west & joined a quintet led by established bandleader Chico Hamilton with whom he made his first recordings. His solo records, 8 across 1966-67, often included versions of contemporary songs by the Beatles & others. I have never been sure about Jazz’s interaction with the Pop canon, however cool, stylish & well-played or however “Jazz Raga” you make “Paint It Black”. A creative & business partnership with vibraphonist Gary McFarland led to the formation of Skye Records & “Dreams” (1968) is fine collection of his many influences including Hungarian Folk music. His most commercially successful work with vocalist Lena Horne was released just as Skye had to declare bankruptcy.

Gabor Szabo / Bobby Womack – Breezin' / Azure Rain (1971, Vinyl) - Discogs

So to 1971 & the “High Contrast” album with “Breezin”, this week rising a healthy 12 places to #30. Now with the famed Blue Thumb label this was a collaboration with Bobby Womack who played rhythm guitar on the sessions & wrote 4 of the 7 songs. This is much more to my taste, a leisurely Jazz-Funk groove that anticipated later music by the Crusaders, Grover Washington Jr, Bob James, Eric Gale & the rest of the CTI crew. Gabor continued to record & often returned to Hungary. He had though picked up something else from American Jazz musicians & died when just 45 years old after a long-standing heroin addiction. Gabor Szabo is fondly remembered by those who were listening at the time. The great Carlos Santana cites him as an influence & merged Szabo’s “Gypsy Queen” with Peter Green’s “Black Magic Woman” to create a killer track.

JOE TEX/PERCY SLEDGE - Knoxville 1968 Music Concert Poster Art | eBay

A new record from Joe Tex was always a good thing. Since “Hold What You Got”, his first hit in 1965, there had been over 20 placings on the R&B Top 30. The 5 successive Top 10 singles across 1965-66, released on the Dial label, distributed by Atlantic, placed him in the front line of the Southern Soul artists who were coming to national attention. While Joe could write Soul stompers like “Show Me” & “S.Y.S.L.J.F.M. (The Letter Song”) it was his three minute homilies, homespun observations told with a moral told with humour, warmth & exuberance, that became his stock-in-trade. “Skinny Legs & All” crossed over to the Pop chart in 1967, “Men Are Getting Scarce” (“Men are gettin’ scarce, scarcer than hen’s teeth, & that’s mighty scarce!”) were just two of a long line of memorable, individual hits which, along with an outstanding stage show (including impersonations), made him a major star.

Joe Tex – Give The Baby Anything The Baby Wants / Takin' A Chance (1971,  Vinyl) - Discogs

Joe Tex was involved with the Soul Clan, a superstar collective with higher ideals than just making records which never received the promised backing of Atlantic. There was a move to Mercury Records but, through a partnership with manager-producer-Dial label owner Buddy Killen, he maintained his independence, recording what & where he wanted, using the best musicians from Muscle Shoals & American Sound Studios in Memphis. The Memphis Boys, Reggie Young (guitar), Tommy Cogbill (bass), keyboard players Bobby Emmons & Bobby Wood , would come on over to Nashville if Joe had sessions there. “Give The Baby What The Baby Wants”, #41 this week, is a fine, funky workout for the crew that sits just right on the collection of Dial A-sides that is an essential for any Soul enthusiast. The following year “I Gotcha” became Joe”s biggest hit (#1 R&B, #2 Pop) but recording became more sporadic when Joe, a convert to Islam in 1966, announced his retirement in 1972, returning three years later after the death of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam. “Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)” was one last hit in 1977. Joe never really suited Disco & his music lacked the progression of some of his contemporaries. There were both health & financial problems before a fatal heart attack in 1982 which is a shame but there’s always the great, uplifting music of Joe Tex – a Soul Man.

Groovin’ With The King (Soul September 11th 1971)

The Top 10 of the Cash Box Top 60 in R&B Locations for 50 years ago this week can take a backseat this time around. The highest of the 10 new entries on the chart is such a great record that we will get straight to that then it really should be no problem to to select another two of the higher numbers from lower down the page.

How much do I love the voice of Overton Vertis Wright? Flipping loads! 50 years ago I was just 18, you know what I mean. Young & in love, leaving my parent’s home for new adventures in a town 150 miles away, dumb as a box of hair. Everything was new, that’s the way I liked it & Marvin Gaye, Sly & the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, the Soul innovators, were the soundtrack to the excitement & anticipation. The deep Southern Soul of O.V. Wright seemed, I’ll admit, a little staid. I knew nothing about the pain of loss, heartbreak & the tribulations Life brings. Now I’m almost grown (huh!) & have a greater experience of all that tricky stuff, I believe that O.V. is one of the singers (it’s a short list) who is able to communicate & illuminate these feelings most honestly & convincingly.

O.V. Wright 1970 Detroit, MI Jumbo Globe Concert Poster.... Music | Lot  #89880 | Heritage Auctions

“A Nickel & A Nail” entered the chart at #45, O.V. had started his recording career with two R&B Top 10 hits but, while popular in the southern states, he never emulated the success of some of his contemporaries. His Gospel group, the Sunset Travellers also included James Carr (blimey!). The pair went to Goldwax Records together but O.V. had signed a contract with the smaller Back Beat label whose owner Don Robey always (as Deadric Malone) seemed to have songwriting credit. A run of fine 45s brought the involvement in the late 1960s of producer Willie Mitchell & when Willie got his own thing going at Royal Studio in Memphis he brought O.V. along. With the Hi (Records) Rhythm Section & the Memphis Horns the backing was sweeter & stronger though never overpowering his intense, immaculate vocals. Yeah, there have now been times when all I’ve had in my pocket was a nickel & a nail & O.V. Wright sounds like he has too. That’s the Blues.

O.V. Wright (Overton Vertis Wright) | Facebook

O.V.’s run at Hi Records was interrupted by his involvement with narcotics leading to jail time. After a 4 year break he resumed recording in 1977. Such were the times that the music was now Disco-inflected but O.V. still sang it like it was. His take on Percy Sledge’s “When A Man Loves A Woman”, part of a 10 minute long medley, is spine-tingling & “Into Something (Can’t Shake Loose)” is just too much. In September 1979 the Hi band (with the three Hodges brothers) got together with O.V. for a tour of Japan. Looking frail, a little sick & tired of being sick & tired, his voice is still a wonder, the resulting live album is a run through his career & a triumph of Memphis Soul, O.V.’s testification made all the more poignant by his fatal heart attack, at the age of 41, in the following year. O. V., you’re gonna make me cry.

Now this is an odd one. Just making the chart at #59 this week is “Groovin’ Out On Life” by Frederick II. I know the song from the original Jamaican hit by Hopeton Lewis, a lovely version by Dennis Brown, recorded at Studio One with Coxsone Dodd when the singer was just 14 years old & its inclusion on Nolan Porter’s 1972 album “Nolan” but Frederick II, you got me there. It turns out that there’s not a long-lost recording by the briefly King of Prussia (March 1888 – June 1888) but that this is the Nolan Porter track issued under a different name & that’s nothing but a good thing!

Nolan Porter | Discography | Discogs

If Nolan Porter was not in with the In Crowd of Los Angeles then he was certainly in with an In Crowd. His producer Gabriel Melker had been responsible for records by Steppenwolf (“Born To Be Wild”!), Three Dog Night, Janis Joplin & others. Married to Frank Zappa’s, off of the Mothers of Invention, sister Candy, Nolan was able to recruit the assistance of the members of Little Feat, soon to be the coolest band on this planet. Subsequently a little more Rock innovation was added to the Soul, well-chosen cover versions (Booker T Jones, Randy Newman, a Little Feat song) were mixed with his own compositions. It was a prescription that served Rod Stewart pretty well in 1971. A 45, “I Like What You Give”, was a small R&B hit but the LP “No Apologies” by simply “Nolan” failed to register. Anyway there was always Frederick II.

Stone Foundation on Twitter: "There aren't enough words on here to express  our sadness in the passing today of our dear friend and brother Nolan Porter.  You taught us so much in

In 1968 Desmond Dekker’s sensational “The Israelites”, a #1 in the UK, reached the US Pop Top 10 but Jamaican music had not made the same impression there as it had on this side of the Atlantic. There were two Reggae songs on Nolan’s re-mixed, re-shuffled (four new tracks) & re-released album & “Groovin’…” is a pretty sweet tune even if the L.A. boys don’t totally re-create the depth & feel that the JA studio cats could play all day, every day. Is this the first US Reggae record to make the R&B chart? Nolan’s record company went bust & that was it from him. His music was distinctive & good enough to attract devotion in UK Northern Soul clubs then enthusiasm from younger listeners. “If I Could Only Be Sure” & “Keep On Keeping On” (the riff borrowed by Joy Division for “Interzone”) are the “hits” but all of Nolan Porter is worth checking out.

Funkadelic : Live At Meadowbrook 1971 (Vinyl Reissue) : Aquarium Drunkard

Just sneaking on to this week’s chart at #60 is a track taken from “Maggot Brain”, the third album released by Funkadelic in 14 months. George Clinton’s vocal group, the Parliaments had integrated with its backing band to create an amalgamation who set off on a lysergically-fuelled magical mystery expedition, where the rules are that there are none, in search of that “way back yonder Funk”. The group’s first two records laid the foundation of the Funkadelic P-Funk credo, “Free Your Mind & Your Ass Will Follow”, psychedelia energetically & free spiritedly combined with many Black & Rock influences, always music you could dance to. George encouraged the talented musicians he had assembled to express themselves & “Maggot Brain” is the realisation of their ideas about forging something modern, different & individual. It’s a landmark record.

Funkadelic & The Parliament gig flyer, 1971: OldSchoolCool

The acoustic guitar intro to “Can You Get To That” is pretty calming after the opening title track, a 10 minute long intense mind-melting instrumental led with rare skill & emotion by guitarist Eddie Hazel who knew that the talent of Jimi Hendrix was as much from the heart as well as the hands. “Can You…” is Gospel reinforced by Funk,the vocals by Isaac Hayes’ backing singers Hot Buttered Soul,& it’s as catchy as heck. Funkadelic enjoyed modest success with their records & it would be their ninth studio album, in 1978, before a platinum disc arrived. George was ready with a stadium-filling space spectacular based around some Mothership craziness & innovative, inspired music. “One Nation Under A Groove” is undoubtedly a great, still influential album. I prefer Funkadelic from 1971 when they had “rusty ankles and ashy kneecaps”.

In 2013 Jeff Tweedy, off of Wilco, got back together with Mavis Staples to record a successor to the album “You Are Not Alone” from three years earlier. Mavis, a Queen of Soul with her family band, can make any song better with her presence & passion & “Can You Get To That”, from “One True Vine” was a perfect candidate for revival. I try not to post phone clips but I will never get enough moving pictures of Mavis & her fine touring band. She takes you there!

It’s A Love Rights Thing (Soul August 28th 1971)

As a compilation of Aretha Franklin’s hit records had been released only two years previously, for the 1971 “Aretha’s Greatest Hits” collection the singer recorded three cover versions that had not been included on either singles or albums. In May “Bridge Over Troubled Water” had become the tenth of her 45s to hit the #1 spot on the R&B chart. “Spanish Harlem”, climbing two slots to #2 on the Cash Box Top 60 in R&B Locations of 50 years ago, was just a week away from being her eleventh. 1971 was, as if there was any doubt, the year that Aretha’s “Queen of Soul” title was confirmed.

Spanish Harlem - As performed by Jimmy Justice, Aretha Franklin, Norrie  Pramor and Ben E King only £10.00

In 1960 Pop prodigy Phil Spector, just 20 years old, had flown across the US to network with the great & good of New York’s R&B music community. Ace writer/producers Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller were working on material for Ben E King, the lead voice on enduring hits they had crafted for the Drifters. “Spanish Harlem” was written by Spector & Leiber, though I’m sure that Stoller was in the room too, & it provided the singer with his first major hit. A couple of tunes Spector had written with lyricist Doc Pomus were recorded at the same session as was “Stand By Me” & we all know how that one goes. The original had the slow samba baion rhythm so popular in NY at the time. Aretha added a little pace, a little Funk, changed the red rose to black & the song was a hit again.

This was the second time that Ms Franklin had revived a King tune. In 1970 “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)”, one from 1962, had been another R&B #1. “Aretha’s Greatest Hits” was to be released in September, her “Live At The Fillmore West”, a great achievement, had come around earlier in March. A nonpareil singer was at her commercial & artistic peak. She had the “Young Gifted & Black” album ready to go, a record that included five songs that made the R&B Top 10. Even Aretha’s B-sides were making the chart in 1971.

Laura Lee – Women's Love Rights (1971, Vinyl) - Discogs

Women were representing for the Hot Wax/Invictus labels, the operation set up by the crack team Holland-Dozier-Holland on moving across Detroit from Tamla Motown. The vocal trio Honey Cone are at #7 with “Stick Up”, on its way to emulating the chart-topping “Want Ads” while Freda Payne, known for “Band Of Gold”, had “Bring the Boys Back Home”, sweet Soul with a rock hard centre of Vietnam protest, a message that got itself banned by the overseas American Forces Network. Up three places to #32 is a singer who is possibly less remembered but Laura Lee’s “Women’s Love Rights” had got it going on.

Laura Lee was from the pool of Detroit talent who joined a new label where their potential could be more realised. She had sung & recorded with the Meditation Singers since she was a pre-teen, having a couple of solo Top20 R&B hits in 1967 when Chess Records sent her down to FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals. Back in Detroit she was matched with one of the less heralded former Motown staffers William Weatherspoon who had co-written “What Becomes Of the Broken Hearted” & other great hits for Jimmy Ruffin while also producing the attention-grabbing orchestral “When You’re Young & In Love” by the Marvelettes. The two talents proved to be in synch.

Laura Lee | Discography | Discogs

With a strong, assertive voice to write for Weatherspoon, together with Angelo Gold who also had a credit on the Freda Payne single, provided Laura with plenty of attitude. You better be a do right man or else, as “Women’s Love Rights” says “Love who you wanna ’cause a man is sure gonna”. The song was the title track of an album with titles like “I Don’t Want Nothin’ Old (But Money)” & “It’s Not What You Fall For, It’s What You Stand For”. I’m not sure if they were but it really does sound like the Funk Brothers were moonlighting at the Town Theatre studio because the whole thing absolutely grooves. A further LP, “Two Sides Of…” combined imaginative cover versions with more smoking, sturdy originals. Unfortunately as Hot Wax/Invictus folded Laura became seriously ill & retired from music for some years before returning to Gospel. Around this time Millie Jackson was mining a similar seam on the theme of modern love, selling millions of albums that were no spunkier or funkier than the two Laura Lee made.

The Gambler by Ralfi Pagan

Ralfi Pagan, from the Bronx, New York, had first recorded as Ray Paige before signing with Fania Records, a label started by bandleader Johnny Pacheco as an outlet & showcase for the Latin music community of the city. Ralfi’s debut album, all in Spanish then re-released with a couple of songs in American highlighted some fine, romantic, falsetto balladry. Young & handsome, Ralfi’s sweet Latin Soul was very popular. “Make It With You”, #35 this week, a cover version of David Gates’ song for Bread, a hit in 1970, is embellished by his delicate, emotional voice, expanded by an excellent arrangement. It was in 1971 that the Fania All Stars, an assembly of stellar Latin musicians, played their “Live At the Cheetah” concert which, when released, deservedly gained them worldwide reputation & recognition of Salsa. Some of these guys were in the studio making Ralfi’s music & it is certainly classy. A particular tip of the fedora to the guitarist.

The singer moved to Los Angeles & was a success with the Californian Chicano audiences. In 1978 Ralfi was touring in Colombia when his body was found on a local beach. Accepted as a murder the case remains unresolved. His brother puts the finger on an unnamed promoter/business associate while there are more lurid versions involving cocaine. I’m not looking for clues so I’ll just say that Ralfi Pagan was 30 years old when he died. As the appreciation of Latin music grew surely such a honeyed, individual voice as his would have become more widely known.